When it's a new PC add-in board that's currently being manufactured in small, pre-production quantities in — of all places — Kiev, Ukraine.
I've heard rumors of this experimental development project for months. Now I've finally tracked down enough confirmed information to reveal it in print for the first time.
A PC Add-In That Does Windows
Imagine a simple circuit board that fits into a PCI slot of any machine running Windows or Linux and offers the following benefits:
• Virus protection. The board reportedly stops all virus-type activity from occurring, without requiring "signature" files that must constantly be updated;
• Intrusion protection. Attempts by malicious hackers to break into a PC or plant "Trojan horse" software are automatically defeated.
• Outbound malware exclusion. The board can supposedly even detect and prevent attempts by rogue software to launch denial-of-service and other kinds of attacks from one PC against others on the Internet.
My first reaction upon hearing all this was, "How could you run an everyday, innocent application on such a PC without being stopped by the security mechanisms in this thing?"
I can't tell you the answer for sure. There appear to be only a handful of these boards in existence and the company that developed the technology won't provide me with one to test. Executives of the firm, however, say a user's normal work on a PC wouldn't be impaired — only malicious actions would be.
An Invention So Secure You Can't Figure It Out
The business entity behind this ambitious activity is called the Laboratory of Security Technologies (LST). It was co-founded by Aleksey Shevchenko, a Ukrainian inventor.
I first became aware of this company's claims when it ran a contest on its Web site last August. A cash reward was offered to anyone who could remotely break into a PC that had the add-in board installed but was otherwise unprotected. No one could, apparently, but the firm's Web site, LSTec.com, is a little short of details on this.
When I heard that Shevchenko was visiting the United States recently to meet with potential investors, I decided that this was worth investigating further.
Technology In Search of an Angel
I called Kiev and reached LST co-founder and board member Paul Waters. He describes himself as an American citizen who was a real estate agent in northern California before moving to Ukraine in 1991.
Waters' phone manners are impeccable, and he was quite open to my questions. (The exception was that he repeatedly declined to allow me to review one of the company's circuit boards.) The hacker contest, he said, had in fact attracted between 600 and 700 break-in attempts from around the world. Only 16 of them were truly serious, in the company's opinion, but even those got nowhere.
"There's an incredibly simple principle that this is based on," Waters says. "If you saw it, you'd go, 'Ah-ha!' "
He reiterated the company's claims that the add-in board could repel hacker and virus attacks without continual updating. "There's no need to update it every day or ever. I know it's hard to accept, but it's true."
Waters says the company is firming up its intellectual property rights while it seeks investments of $1 million in return for a 4% to 5% stake. "For an investor or someone who's willing to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), we can be very open," he adds.
I'm not a venture capitalist, but if I were, a measly million bucks would seem to be a cheap price to pay for a peek at this gizmo. If it can do half of what the company claims, a lot of corporate CIOs I know would be installing these boards in a New York minute for the low-maintenance security they promise.
In case you find the LST Web site to be a little obtuse, Waters encourages people to e-mail him at "paul at lrpeople dot com". (I'm spelling out the punctuation marks here to protect his address from being harvested by spammers.)
This technology feels to me like it's either a great big breakthrough or a great big nothing. I hope one of my readers buys a seat at the table and then tells me all about it.